I was a nervous wreck most of the week. It has been a long several years since I’ve raced in an ultramarathon and I wanted to finish with strength left in my body and joy spilling out of my heart. I knew the trail was hard and technical throughout with steep climbs and even steeper descents. Forty-three miles and 8500+ feet of vertical gain through the Pack Monadnocks (in New England this means up and down and up and down…) was not going to be a walk in the park. I am happy to say that the Wapack and Back had me smiling mile after mile. It is a beautiful trail and to put it all together (twice, really) was such a bast. (Just as a note: there is a 21.5 mile, 43 mile and 50 mile option to this race. I signed up for the 43.)
My husband and I woke up around 2am to get out the door by 310am so we could be at the trailhead by 430am. He is a trooper and insisted on this so he could come back to watch me cross the finish line with Riley. We got to the trail, checked in and soon enough I had my headlamp on and we (the 43 and 50 mile runners) were off at 5am heading up Mt. Watatic toward the first rays of the sun.
The thing I really love about running races is the camaraderie of it all. I train in solitude so running with a bunch of people who are all excited to do this semi-crazy thing is such a fun and different experience for me. I met some really nice people along the route that kept the vibe light and inspiring, and the moment present. I absolutely loved heading into the northern terminus turn around point while the runners who signed up for the 21.5 mile race were passing us (heading south) with everyone cheering each other on and giving high-fives to one another. Talk about a boost of energy! I also felt thankful to get text messages from family, friends (both old and new), and even one from my new niece, Isabella (!), all encouraging me with positive energy. I often feel far away from the “community” of trail running, but during races, it wraps me up like a warm blanket on a cold night.
Throughout the race I felt strong and focused. I was a tad early to the 21.5 mile turn around, but not too early where I was worried about bonking. I then ended up cruising into the 34-mile cut off aid station far ahead of the time I thought I’d make. I paused to take inventory and realized that maybe, just maybe I had underestimated myself. I was on track to possibly make it to the finish only a tad over 11 hrs time but I hit a bit of happy exhaustion over the third to last monadnock and slowed down a bit. Luckily, my sister-in-law must have intuitively known that and sent this picture of my niece to cheer me on. It worked and I picked up pace once again.
I knew that Aaron and Riley were already waiting for me at the finish line and I couldn’t wait to see their faces. I kept repeating affirmations of encouragement and gratitude toward Mother Nature for offering us her beautiful land to play on. I sped up again and bombed the last downhill (as much as I could after 41+ miles) and giggled as I crossed the last wood planks ringing in the finish.
I finally saw my two boys waiting for me which made me smile wider than ever. I finished strong, happy, and filled with love. The volunteers wanted me to keep going to get the last 7 miles in to make it a full 50, but I was so happy to be where I was and to have accomplished what I had wanted. At that point turning around to do another out and back 3.5 miles just didn’t make sense to me (plus I already have a 50-miler picked out for November) so I declined and thanked them for the amazing experience. The next morning I found out that I had finished 1st female and 4th overall in the 43-miler. I had absolutely no clue how I would stack up against others and this was both surprising and beyond encouraging. It turns out I also set the second-fastest recorded time for the women’s 43-miler. I may have cried a little as I have never (and possibly will never again) seen that 100% ranking in Ultra Sign-Up. This was a juicy cherry on top.
I am grateful that I pushed myself to do this race and to stay true to my ability regardless of my discomfort. It has been a crazy year filled with ups and downs (okay, a whole lotta downs to be honest) and I have remained steadfast in training and in growing (my husband has been lovingly eager to point this out as often as possible). I am plagued with the habit of underestimating myself, however my performance in this race (regardless of future races and life thereafter) has showed me that I am strong and capable, and I belong among the strong and capable.